The Story of American Toys: From the Puritans to the Present

Richard O'Brien, Author Abbeville Press $24.98 (252p) ISBN 978-0-89659-921-5
In a capable, matter-of-fact history, O'Brien ( Collecting Toys ) surveys the playthings of three American centuries, beginning with the doll carried by young William Penn to Pennsylvania and concluding with the jowly Mr. Potato Head, manufactured by Hasbro and still popular in the 1980s. In between are Robert the Robot, a battery-run alien creature of the '50s; toy soldiers of successive eras; a charming miniature tin kitchen, circa 1880, from Asheville, N.C.; and the board game's mid-19th-century forebear, The Mansion of Happiness, an Instructive, Moral, and Entertaining Amusement. A picture book designed with a jaunty vernacular rhythm, O'Brien's opus is also noteworthy for the curious stories he tells of toys' origins--for example, that of the teddy bear. Conceived by a shrewd Brooklyn, N.Y., toy store owner, the bear was modeled after a real-life cub whose cuddliness caught legendary hunter Teddy Roosevelt's eye. Not only was the cub's life saved, but its spirit--reincarnated in plush, fur and felt--was immortalized. (June)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1992
Release date: 09/01/1992
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